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Out of “Wack”

As part of this week’s festivities, we’re listening to our podcasts, as well as critiquing them, to see what works and what doesn’t. For the second half, we listen in on the podcast my team made, and in this case, it’s Wacky History.

Quality of audio sound -e.g. Is the volume appropriate? Are the levels even? Is the sound clear, and free of noises not needed (e.g. mouse clicks, background noise)?
The audio quality is a classic case of “second verse, same as the first.” Someone sounds like they’re speaking too close to the microphone one minute, and the next, countless click-cuts are heard, amongst sudden stops, deep breaths where there shouldn’t be any, and sound effects that just feel jarring, more often than not. I got rid of the background noise, entirely, on one of the takes I sent in, and they still went with an older one at first, letting the background music die out partway through, before that sudden strum kicked in, to really snap me out of the out-of-order experience.

Quality of audio editing – use of effects, transitions, are the edits clean?
Everything was fine, for the most part, during the wedding rings segment, although the one on dentures, which I was a part of, gave it a rocky start, of sorts. My teammates definitely found it hard to figure out how voice editing works, as they were, once again, either too loud, or too soft, for the audience to hear. The “sudden stops,” microphone pops, and unnecessary “deep breath” – from Rachel, this time – make more guest appearances, though, again, most of us recorded everything on campus, while I stuck to recording everything at home, with a higher success rate against the constant click-cuts. The repetitive humming noise during Chantel and Rachel’s portion was hard to identify, and harder to forgive for its sudden placement, as the music was still playing throughout all of our segments. We didn’t even have a bumper to warm up to our half of the project, and dived right in. By the time my portion of the segment kicked in, Rachel and Chantel didn’t talk at all about George Washington’s dentures, as they implied they would in our e-mails to each other, rendering my “follow-up” warning as pointless as a golf tournament; once I brought up what caused his tooth loss in the first place, a guitar strummed in the background, for no reason at all.

Use of sound effects- how are they used? Is it effective?
While the sound effects do get people out of the slumbering stupor that most history lectures put the unwilling audience through, they didn’t have to! Even now, I still don’t know why anyone thought an acoustic guitar strumming was the best way to break up a segment that was already booked at the local trauma ward, it was suffering from a lack of build-up. The sudden stops were bad enough, but the sudden strum just feels more out of place. It’s effective in keeping the audience’s attention, but it still confuses me.

Use of music- how is it used? Is it effective or distracting?
Immediately, we open the show with the riff from Tom Petty’s “Runnin’ Down a Dream,” allowing people to get interested in what the show has to offer, before entering whiplash territory with generic background music for the dentures segment, which I was a part of. This distraction continues throughout the entirety of the segment, although it is effective in keeping the attention of the audience throughout, so I can’t really complain.

Does the show have a structure? Is it cohesive or does it feel stitched together?
The segment on wedding rings was actually more cohesive than The Verge was, if you could believe it, so I won’t find any flack with it, outside of Ben Brady’s spit-takes into the microphone. Our first segment, on dentures, was not as lucky, due to the out-of-order editing, while the one on wedding rings essentially ended on a cliffhanger. That isn’t saying much, since all of the mid-term podcasts turned in this week suffered from similar flaws, and some had it worse than others. While I can’t say whether or not we caused the least amount of auditory damage, there were more things that could’ve been cut out, if only to provide much less of a feeling that no one on the team knew how to do the things they were supposed to do, much less what they were doing, instead. See the aforementioned “sudden strum” incident for a key example.

Does it tell a story effectively? Is there a sense of drama, unknown? Does it draw you in to listen?
Again, our podcast did the job right, teaching lessons that wouldn’t be given in a normal history class. However, I think that Benjamin Brady, our sound editor, might have been playing favorites with the “wedding rings” segment that he was a part of, since that segment was cohesive, straightforward, and left the audience wanting to know more about the bizarre backstories of household items like wedding rings and dentures. I say this, in comparison to our segment, which is buried under a complete lack of cohesion, drawing people in for all of the wrong reasons. From Rachel mispronouncing “deteriorated,” to the “sudden strum,” it seemed that the only real lesson anyone took from this is that Murphy’s Law is real, and it is, in fact, in effect; anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. I’ll give Ben credit for the decision to include a “celebrity fun facts” epilogue for the end of our segment, however, just to keep things lighthearted, heading into the second segment.

If you would rate this radio show, how many stars out of five would you give to the show?
Despite the fact that I essentially read the Riot Act to both this, and another podcast, I still think this did better than I expected it to. While the intent was perfectly clear that what we got could’ve been far worse, in the long run, for the moment, I can let go of all of the botched affairs, knowing first-hand how my teammates feel when I essentially created “mixing signals for comedic effect,” because I don’t know how everything works, as well as I thought I did. Suffice it to say, this is, was, and always will be a learning experience, and sometimes, you have to let everything fail, in order to learn how to succeed. With that in mind, I would say this mid-term podcast project led to a five-star performance for this team. It’s better than what I thought it would be, and it still has the potential to be greater, regardless of its flaws.

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